artist Cameron Cross working in Emerald on the Sunflower piece
artist Cameron Cross working in Emerald on the Sunflower piece

Big Easel a beacon for area

A SOCIAL media post by the van Gogh museum in Amsterdam has blossomed into a forum praising Canadian artist Cameron Cross and his ‘Big Easel’ project, which includes his Sunflower Painting that stands tall and proud in Emerald.

Discover Central Highlands QLD reposted the Facebook message on October 2, as they were “chuffed” the world-renowned museum was spreading the story of Mr Cross’s artworks and the countries they reside in around the world.

As part of his project to date, Mr Cross has created the world’s biggest van Gogh-inspired ‘Sunflowers’ artworks — standing at 25 metres high on a 17,000kg steel easel — in Emerald; Altona, Canada; and Kansas, America.

Mr Cross — who has been to Emerald three times with the Sunflower Easel unveiled in 1999 — said he would return to Emerald in “a heartbeat”.

He began the project in Canada to pay homage to their sunflower agriculture, to honour the symbol of the sunflower, and to pay tribute to Vincent van Gogh.

“I was teaching art in Altona and learnt that Altona was the ‘Sunflower Capital of Canada’ and had a sister city — Emerald, Australia

“I discovered that van Gogh painted several Sunflower paintings. The connection seemed obvious so I decided to continue the series and present the idea to Emerald.”

Mr Cross is passionate about creating spaces for people to enjoy public art, and allowing the nature of the art to transform an environment.

“I’m a big believer in what public art can do for a community. A homeless person can be standing next to a millionaire, and they can both have the same experience.”

He said many people in Emerald had helped ensure the Sunflower artwork landmark in Morton Park became a reality.

“Having the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam recognise the project is a testament to the people in Emerald. Emerald is connected to communities in Canada and the US, as well as to future communities with their potential participation in the project.

“Bringing people to see the easel means bringing people to see Emerald — its restaurants, hotels, shops and most importantly, its people.

“Emerald is an extremely welcoming community that has always treated me with the utmost respect, hospitality and warmth.

“I can only hope that the easel will continue to bring tourists into the community and help with the economy.”

Central Highlands Development Corporation Tourism Development Coordinator Paul Thompson walks past the Sunflowers artwork every day at lunch time.

Based at the Emerald Tourist Information Centre, Mr Thompson said, “It’s great that Emerald is on the radar of one of the best art galleries in the world and the fact Emerald is associated with that is amazing and very humbling.”

He said that in November, a tourism and events forum would be held to discuss Emerald’s “story and our place” so the significance of the artwork would be “a great talking point”.

He said city tours held each Tuesday from Easter to September started at the Sunflower Painting, continuing along Centenary Walk with its mosaic pathway.

“Those experiences are really good for slowing people down and it’s invaluable for civic pride. A product like public art is great for local and visiting communities — it’s a win-win.”

Emerald’s current ‘Sunflower Queen’ Zarah Simpson who was crowned at this year’s Central Highlands Easter Sunflower Festival recently visited Emerald’s sister city Altona and celebrated the Manitoba Sunflower Festival.

Ms Simpson said it was important to foster the links across the world and maintain the history between Emerald and Altona.

“A lot of rural people are artists themselves, so even though they might be on a struggling cattle property, they can be inspired by something like this.”

She said the recent Facebook post by the van Gogh museum was an opportunity to remind the world how much the Central Highlands has to offer, with the Sunflower portrait acting as beacon for the whole region.

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